The European Union chorus said yes to the accession of the Western Balkans. True, the question of the date of this event remains open.
European leaders yesterday pledged EU membership to six Balkan countries – Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, North Macedonia and Kosovo. According to a promise made 18 years ago, their entry into the bloc is not far off. But when exactly – it is not yet clear, as well as the date of the next step on the way to the EU.
It took several weeks to discuss this issue. All 27 participants agreed that, subject to meeting various criteria (from funding to judicial reform), the Balkan countries have an undeniable chance of joining a friendly European family.
True, the EU’s “enlargement process” is hampered by various disagreements in Brussels and Serbia’s stubbornness in recognizing Kosovo’s independence in 2008. In this regard, according to Reuters, many in the Balkans call the EU declaration a “dummy”. The summit’s declaration says:
“The EU reaffirms its unconditional support for the European perspective of the Western Balkans. He reaffirms his commitment to the enlargement process. But the EU has focused on credible reforms by partners, as well as fair and tough conditions and the principle of autonomy. ”
Ursula von der Layen, President of the European Commission, warmly called the Balkan countries “family”, while French President Emanuel Macron said the Balkans are located “in the heart of Europe” and deserve EU membership.
However, there was still no unanimity. The Nordic states – Denmark, France and the Netherlands – are seriously worried about a repeat of the scenario of the rushed annexation of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007 and the mismanaged migration of workers from eastern Europe to the UK, which has caused friction between the EU and the British. And Bulgaria opposes the accession of North Macedonia, already a NATO member, because of the language dispute.
Today, the European Union is the largest trading partner and foreign investor in six countries that emerged as a result of the collapse of Yugoslavia and the ethnic wars of the 1990s. However, the efforts of Slovenia, the presidency of the EU, to set a specific date for accession by 2030, have not been crowned with success. An enlargement of the EU from 27 to 33 members would require reform and complicate decision-making. Although the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have stated the importance of setting a deadline for joining. Merkel noted:
“I don’t really believe in dating. I believe that I will keep our promises: if the conditions are met, the accession can take place. “
But even among applicants for membership, not everything is so simple. Aleksandar Vucic, President of Serbia, said that it was impossible to join the EU without resolving issues with Kosovo. And the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, is disappointed with the EU due to the non-recognition of his country’s independence by five states. Which, however, is understandable and is caused by an elementary fear of encouraging separatist movements in their own country, for example, in Catalonia.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz warns:
“If the European Union does not offer a real perspective in this region, we should know that other superpowers – China, Russia or Turkey – will play a big role there. The region belongs to Europe geographically and needs a European perspective. “
As our publication reported, the EU raised the issue of the abolition of the visa-free regime for citizens of Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine and the states of the Western Balkans. Some EU countries are unhappy with violations of the rules of visa-free travel by these countries. Their citizens exceed the terms of their possible stay in the European Union and submit applications for asylum, which are not substantiated in any way. The document was released during the visit of Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, to the countries of the Western Balkans on 27 September.